Gonzaga and Whitworth plan to reopen in the fall, presidents say

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

(as reported by Megan Carroll for KREM)

SPOKANE, Wash. — After a transition to online learning this spring during the coronavirus pandemic, Spokane universities are announcing their plans to reopen in the fall.

In a letter on Monday, Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh announced that leaders are working toward reopening the campus and resuming in-person instruction for the Fall 2020 semester.

"We are conscious of the fact that COVID-19 has proven to be a serious danger to individuals in un-managed situations; as a result, we will consider new practices and protocols that seek to minimize contact and better manage the needs of our community in this circumstance," McCulloh wrote. 

"We are fortunate; as a university with relatively small class sizes that facilitate new approaches, we are able to work to develop appropriate models for modifying the environments that facilitate safely learning, living, and working together within the Gonzaga University community," he added.

McCulloh also announced the appointment of a Pandemic Response Task Force whose work will manage the challenges associated with reopening. 

The task force and its committees will examine a variety of issues, including the exploration of class scheduled and sequencing to reduce class sizes; examination of the safe operation of campus housing, dining and the fitness center; and use of personal protective equipment, among others.

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Whitworth University President Beck Taylor also announced the school's plan to reopen in the fall on Tuesday.

"There are still many unanswered questions, but Whitworth’s goal is to begin the fall semester in a residential, in-person format," Taylor wrote. "That means that residence halls will be open, classes will be hosted on the main campus and in the University District, and our mind-and-heart education will resume in many of the familiar ways that contribute to the intellectual and spiritual formation of our students."

Taylor added that returning to a "full state" of normalcy may not be possible, but he is convinced with the appropriate safeguards and practices that students can continue their education on the university's campus.

Whitworth employees are expected to return to work in the coming weeks, and a task force is ensuring that the university utilizes best safety practice and equipment available to adhere to restrictions while they are in place, Taylor wrote.

Faculty members and administrators are also working to develop academic alternatives for students who may need them. 

"As I mentioned, it’s difficult now to predict exactly how Whitworth will need to respond in the fall, but we are ready to do whatever is smart and safe in order to serve our students and employees well," Taylor wrote. "We plan to adhere to state-level mandates and to the advice of our public health authorities as we develop and implement our plans."

Eastern Washington University and Washington State University have not yet announced plans to reopen in the fall, though WSU President Kirk Schulz tweeted last week that in-person instruction is expected to resume in the fall at all campuses.

The University of Idaho is also planning on hosting in-person classes again starting on August 24, but only if the state and Idaho Health Department allow it.